May 132012
 

DPAC UNIVERSAL CREDIT CAMPAIGN

 

www.dpac.uk.net

 

Linda Burnip

01926 842253

0771 492 7533

linda_burnip@yahoo.co.uk

 

Debbie Jolly

01572 820546

079461 40765

mail@dpac.uk.net

 

Universal Credit: What it means

The coalition government and New Labour before them agreed that a reform to the current benefits system was long overdue. In November 2010 the Coalition published a white paper on Universal Credit. It is claimed to be the biggest overhaul of the benefits system since the 1940s when what was known as the welfare state began.

The Government White Paper, ‘Universal Credit: welfare that works’ was published on 11 November 2010 laying out the first steps of the overhaul of the welfare process. The Welfare reform Bill through which this will be introduced was forcibly passed through the Commons and Lords earlier this year by the Coalition government.

This paper deals with Universal Credit. It examines what it means, what it may mean for disabled people and what the key changes will be.

What is Universal Credit?

The coalition notes that there are over 30 different social payments or benefit systems in place. They think this is confusing and too complex for people to understand. They believe that by combining social payments/benefits into one universal payment things will be easier and better for people. Universal credit is intended to be a new benefit which will replace:

  • child tax credit
  • housing benefit
  • income related employment and support allowance
  • income based jobseekers allowance
  • income support
  • social fund budgeting loans
  • working tax credit

Universal credit is a proposed system that will see many social payments or benefits merged into one single payment. The coalition claims that nobody will be worse off under this system. However, the rhetoric of a fairer system is coached in terms of welfare dependency which suggests that this strategy main aim is to reduce welfare spending.

The white paper begins by saying:

The Government is committed to reforming the welfare system to make it fairer, more affordable and to tackle poverty and welfare dependency, whilst continuing to support the most vulnerable in society

The scheme is estimated to cost 2 million to set up. First steps towards the coalition’s vision included strategies introduced in the budget and spending review of 2010. These included:

  • capping household benefit payments so that families do not receive more in welfare than median after-tax earnings for working households;
  • withdrawing Child Benefit from families with a higher rate taxpayer;
  • measures to control the cost of Tax Credits, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit; and
  • time-limiting contributory Employment and Support Allowance for those in the Work Related Activity Group.

The capping of housing benefit payments is likely to hit disabled people particularly hard at a time of rent increases in social housing and the private rented sector.

Whilst withdrawing child benefit from families with a higher rate tax payer may suggest making things fairer, it actually undermines the principle of universality in built into child benefit to ensure that it was not means tested but a benefit to aid mothers bringing up children. The removal of higher rate tax payers is in effect removing that safeguard and the first step towards to means testing.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaces incapacity benefit for all disabled people from 2014. Those in the work related activity group are deemed to be ‘fit for work’ and will have their benefit limited to 12 months retrospectively from the date of the comprehensive spending review or the award if the award was made after the 20 October 2010. There are other categories of the Employment and Support Allowance such as the support group, these will be unaffected by the time –limits. Those in the work related group will be expected to sign up for job seekers allowance a lower amount compared to ESA.

At the time of the White paper Universal credit did not include:

  • bereavement benefits
  • contributory jobseeker’s allowance
  • contributory employment and support allowance
  • disability living allowance
  • child benefit
  • industrial injuries disablement benefit
  • maternity allowance
  • statutory maternity pay
  • statutory sick pay
  • pension credit

However, since this time clear proposals to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and replace it with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have been put forward with the reasoning that 20% needs to be cut from the case loads of DLA.

The paper says universal credit ‘will consist of a basic personal amount’ with additional amounts for ‘disability, caring responsibilities, housing costs, and children’.

When will Universal credit begin?

The white paper stated that universal credit would be rolled out in October 2013. Pilots are due to begin in May 2013.

Claiming and accessibility

Claims are set to be made online and on the basis of households, rather than individuals

Claims will be made on the basis of households rather than individuals and both members of a couple will be required to claim Universal Credit. Claims for Universal Credit will normally be made through the internet and we expect that most subsequent contact between recipients and the delivery agency will also be conducted online. People will be able to obtain all elements of Universal Credit through a single application, ending the excessive form filling of the current system, reducing scope for error and reducing administration costs p.25

Two issues arise for disabled people; the first is that claims made on behalf of a household will exacerbate some disabled peoples’ feelings of dependence as opposed to independence and independent living. The second is that access to computers and to the internet is known to be lower for disabled people and those with lower incomes. Although the paper mentions ‘ These changes will enable the targeting of resources to support vulnerable people with additional needs’ (p.25) which we assume is disabled people, no further method of the method or how this will be achieved is given.

Payment Periods

The paper states that the coalition is considering both payment and assessments on a monthly basis. This would seem to suggest that entitlement will need to be re-registered and hence re- assessed on a monthly basis.

Critiques of universal credit

The coalition claim that nobody will be worse off under the new universal credit, however current proposed changes suggest that this may not be the case for disabled people or others on low incomes. Universal credit appears to be focused on getting people into work and away from benefits. It is laudable that the coalition accept that some people may be worse off in work than on benefits and are attempting to adjust the discrepancy.

At the same time as assessment s for ESA have come under constant and increasing criticism for being unfair[i] it is unlikely that disabled people declared as ‘fit for work’ under the Work Capability Assessment will benefit from this change. The WCA shows that ‘target driven’ simplified tests do not work. It is likely to be the same with one single benefit system –how will this be able to address the complexities of different impairments, multiple impairments, and the multitude of disabling barriers that disabled people face?

Sanctions

In addition, the universal credit and welfare reform will bring in ‘a commitment’ for those who fail to ‘apply themselves’ to proper work seeking activities to tougher sanctions. Once again this will not address the complexity of employment related barriers that disabled people face, even if they really are ‘fit for work’.

Page 21 of the white paper states:

We will require every Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance recipient to have a claimant commitment. The commitment will set out our general expectations of recipients, and the requirements placed upon them; it will also be clear about the consequences for the recipient of failing to meet these agreed standards. This will be carried forward into Universal Credit.

 

 

DPAC say that Disabled People and Disabled Children should not be penalised in this way when £25 billion in unclaimed taxes remains uncollected, bankers continue to receive massive bonuses, and MPs spend £40,000 for trees in Portcullis House plus thousands more for their personal expenses.

 

Summary of key points of the bill

  • The introduction of a Universal Credit to replace existing means-tested benefits and tax credits for people of working age from 2013.

 

  • The introduction of Personal Independence Payments to replace Disability Living Allowance with a stated aim of reducing the number of claimants by 20% and replacing the current 3 bands of the care component with only 2. Half a million disabled people will lose their entitlement to DLA which in many cases is what allows them to work.

 

  • At the moment anyone getting the mobility component of DLA before the age of 65 continues to receive it once they reach 65 but with PIP proposals they will not be able to continue to claim PIP once they reach 65 and there is no mobility component of Attendance Allowance.

 

  • Limiting of contribution based Employment and Support Allowance payments to 12 months for those in the Work Related Activity Group. This is what people think they are paying National Insurance contributions to be entitled to if they need it.  100,000 people will lose out at the beginning of April 2013 and another 100,000 will lose out  the following April after 12 months on the benefit.

 

  • Removal of ESA entitlement from young disabled people under 25 years of age. Non-disabled young adults are treated as such from the age of 18 yet you will no longer be treated as an individual adult if you are disabled. At the same time Income Support is being abolished as well so it remains unclear what if any money younger disabled people will be entitled to.

 

  • Caps on the total amount of benefit any claimant can get, for both housing needs and living expenses. The suggested total amount is £350 for a single person and £500 per week regardless of family size, or costs of housing. This will particularly affect those living in areas such as London where rents are higher than average. Currently 7 out of 8 people who get Housing Benefit are in low paid jobs, so having a living wage might well reduce the overall benefit bill more effectively than demonising benefit claimants further.

 

  • Much has been made of the figure of £26,000 as the maximum annual cap but the vast majority of claimants will in fact get far less then £26,000. Only 1% of claimants will be affected by this cap level but that will still be 67,000 families. In Brent alone 3,300 families are due to lose benefits because of the cap. Social cleansing of poor families has already started in boroughs like Westminster.

 

  • Half of all household affected by the cap on benefits has a disabled person living in them. Moving is often not an option as care packages are not transportable across local authority boundaries, and continuity of other services is often essential.

 

  • Social housing tenants with a spare bedroom will no longer get funding for the extra room. Most will lose £12 a week. The National Housing Federation estimate 180,000 social tenants are underoccupying 2 bedroom homes but there were only 68,000 1 bed social homes to rent in 2009-2010. Even the DWP EIA said there were not enough 1 bedroom properties.

 

  • This is unlikely to reduce housing costs as a couple with one child having to move from a 3 bed social house in Crawley and rent a smaller property in the private sector would be able to get £66 a week more in Housing Benefit.

 

  • It will link Local Housing Allowance rates to CPI index, which excludes housing costs.

 

  • The resulting increase in homelessness will lead to local authorities paying out millions more in costs.

 

  • Not excluding child benefit from the cap levels will mean anyone having a child will not get any extra money to care for them. This will increase child poverty rates and child benefit for a first child is currently about £1,000 per year.

 

  • With the scrapping of Income support single parents with a child over 5 years of age must work or be available for work to receive Job Seekers Allowance.

 

  • The Severe Disability Premium currently part of Income Support will disappear and there are no details about what if anything will replace this. This amount makes up one-third of some severely disabled people’s incomes.

 

  • Claims will be made on the basis of households rather than individuals and both members of a couple will be required to claim Universal Credit. If couples have savings over £6,000 or one of them receives an income then the other will not be able to claim anything else.

 

  • As income support is being abolished carers entitled to benefits will be reduced to 40% of current claimants. Those carers who are also disabled will lose about half of their income as they will only be able to claim one Universal Credit premium either as a carer or a disabled person.

 

  • Removal of the Social Fund which has previously given grants to enable people to buy essential items or to allow women fleeing domestic violence to move. Some of this funding will now go to local authorities but will not be ring-fenced in any way.

 

  • Withdrawing Child Benefit from families with a higher rate taxpayer will affect many families adversely and takes women’s rights backwards.

 

  • Many families with disabled children will face a cut to the financial support they receive from tax credits. The new system will result in these children losing up to £1,400 per year The Government estimates that 100,000 disabled children would lose out under this change.

 

  • Changes to Tax Credits will also affect families caring for disabled children as claimants of these will need to work at least 24 hours rather then 16 hours per week so many families will lose tax credits.

 

  • To access the Child support Agency single parents will have to pay a fee reduced from a suggested £100 down to £20 plus 7-12% of any maintenance collected for them.

 

  • All claims are to be processed via the internet which is not accessible for many disabled people.

 

  • In addition, the universal credit and welfare reform will bring in ‘a commitment’ for those who fail to ‘apply themselves’ to proper work seeking activities to tougher sanctions. Once again this will not address the complexity of employment related barriers that disabled people face, even if they really are ‘fit for work’.

Sanctions proposed include:

  1. a.   Failure to meet a requirement to prepare for work (applicable to jobseekers and those in the Employment and Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group) will lead to 100 per cent of payments ceasing until the recipient re-complies with requirements and for a fixed period after re-compliance (fixed period sanctions start at one week, rising to two, then four weeks with each subsequent failure to comply).

 

  1. b.   Failure to actively seek employment or be available for work will lead to payment ceasing for four weeks for a first failure and up to three months for a second.

 

  1. c.   The most serious failures that apply only to jobseekers will lead to Jobseeker’s Allowance payment ceasing for a fixed period of at least three months (longer for repeat offences). Actions that could trigger this level of penalty include failure to accept a reasonable job offer, failure to apply for a job or failure to attend unpaid Mandatory Work Activity.

 

  1. d.   Some types of recipient, such as lone parents with young children, are only required to attend work-focused interviews and their failure to attend is more often due to challenging circumstances than wilful evasion of the rules. However, financial sanctions where necessary will be applied.

 



 

May 132012
 

 

 

 

DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS

 

www.dpac.uk.net

 

HOUSING AND HOUSING BENEFITS- BRIEFING NOTES

 

Linda Burnip

01926 842253

0771 492 7533

linda_burnip@yahoo.co.uk

mail@dpac.uk.net

 

The future prognosis for disabled people’s housing is grim

 

  • Already 30% of disabled people live below the poverty line and 1 in 4 families with disabled children can’t afford heating.

 

  • The Chartered Institute of Housing has calculated that the cumulative effects of the coalition’s proposals mean that by 2020 every tenants’ Housing Benefit will be too low to cover their rent.

 

Changes to Housing Benefits from April 2011

 

The size criteria will be adjusted to provide for an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer ( ie not a member of your family who shares your home) where a disabled customer has an established need for overnight care. This must be claimed for and will not be awarded automatically.

 

While this is a very small positive change it still totally fails to address the lack of an extra room for disabled children who need an extra bedroom, pensioner and other couples who need an extra room due to their medical needs, and a wide range of other disability related factors which mean disabled people need extra housing space including the need for space for dialysis, room to store equipment, room to use a wheelchair, ground-floor and level access accommodation. The recent DWP Select committee into LHA said that these factors were posing considerable barriers to independent living and should be addressed urgently but still have not been. In essence the overall proposed changes to LHA will simply increase these barriers.

 

From January 2012 – Under 35s

 

Any single  person under 35 years of age renting in the private rented sector who is disabled but not in receipt of middle or higher rate DLA care component will not be able to claim for more than a shared room rate. As DLA is now being scrapped we currently have no idea of the full impact of these 2 changes together.

 

The difference between the LHA for a one-bed property and single room rate is almost 50% and inEdinburghthe one bed rate is £114.23 per week compared to £66.92 per week. It is generally agreed that there are not enough houses in multiple occupancy for everyone who needs to move to be able to do so. ssac’s own report estimated this move alone to change Housing Benefit could lead to 11,000 people becoming homeless.

 

Disabled people who are most likely to be disproportionately affected by these changes are those who most need to live in peaceful surroundings such as those with Mental Health and Neuro-Diverse impairments.

 

From October 2011

 

The Local Housing Allowance has been set at the 30th percentile rent in each Broad Market Rental Area, rather then the 50th percentile as before. Disabled people will only be able to afford to rent in the cheapest properties in an area, which are more than likely to be inaccessible.

 

This will also increase the difficulties disabled people face in finding suitable accommodation to live independently , increase homelessness amongst disabled people and push disabled people further into poverty especially if DLA recipients are cut by half a million as planned by DWP.

 

The proposed changes to the 30th percentile, rather then the median, rent being used to calculate LHA from October 2011 will only make these matters worse than they already are and will constitute serious breaches of UNCRPD particularly article 28, article 19,and article 7. New changes to our legislation should not be allowed to contravene these convention rights.

 

Longer term reforms

 

These required primary legislation

 

from 2013-14 Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit rates will be upgraded in line with CPI ( Consumer Price Index)  rather than on the basis of local rents. CPI does not include any account being taken of housing costs so this will result in the amount of money people can get to help pay their rents being even lower. At the same time this will apply to increases in other benefit rates and an estimate I have seen is that disabled people will be £300 per year worse off because of this.

 

Social Rented Sector

There are plans to remove any security of tenure from social housing tenants and to increase rents to 80% of market values. Together with the caps on Housing Benefits this will make renting in the social housing sector unaffordable in many higher priced areas  of the country.

 

The Bedroom Tax

From 2013 housing benefit for working age social rented sector customers will be restricted for those who are occupying a larger property than their household size would warrant. This is something that the Labour government and DWP tried to introduce in Welfare Reform bill 2007 but were forced to drop by pressure from Housing Associations. It means that if you are living in an adapted property which may have cost thousands of pounds to adapt then if you also have an extra bedroom you have no apparent need for you will only get HB paid at the one bedroom rate.

 

Evicting disabled people from adapted properties when there are few other accessible and adapted ones available seems an act of lunacy and an unnecessary expense to taxpayers as well as causing untold misery to disabled people who will be affected by all of this.

 

Social housing tenants who no longer get funding for an extra room will mostly lose £12 a week. The National Housing Federation estimate 180,000 social tenants are underoccupying 2 bedroom homes but there were only 68,000 1 bed social homes to rent in 2009-2010. Even the DWP EIA said there were not enough 1 bedroom properties.

 

This is unlikely to reduce housing costs as a couple with one child having to move from a 3 bed social house in Crawley and rent a smaller property in the private sector would be able to get £66 a week more in Housing Benefit.

 

Discretionary Housing Payments

 

Recognising the chaos their HB reforms are going to make the sum allocated by government has increased by £10 million in 2011 and by £40 million in 2012. This will apparently give more flexibility to local authorities but DHPs are not supposed to cover long term housing costs and have to be applied for every 13 weeks. There is no right of appeal if they are refused although you can seek a Judicial Review.Leicesterfor example has now introduced a policy where they will only pay for a maximum of 13 weeks during which time disabled people getting a DHP are harrassed to move to a cheaper property, regardless of their independent living needs.

 

Less important changes for disabled people who live outside ofLondon, but disastrous for anyone living inLondonor other high priced areas of the country. Planned introduction postponed until 2012.

 

Local Housing Allowance levels have been restricted to the 4 bedroom rate. The 5 bedroom rate has been scrapped.

 

Caps have been introduced which are

 

A new upper limit will be introduced

£250 a week for a one bedroom property

£290 a week for a 2 bedroom property

£340 a week for a 3 bedroom property

£420 a week for a 4 bedroom property

 

According to government figures about 3-3,500 disabled people rent privately in centralLondon. DPOs in London however have raised concerns that as the centre of London becomes unaffordable to most disabled people then there will be additional pressures on local councils for example in Brent where there is already a 10 year waiting list for re-housing as more people are forced to move.

 

Half of all household affected by the cap on benefits has a disabled person living in them. Moving is often not an option as care packages are not transportable across local authority boundaries, and continuity of other services is often essential.

 

Universal credit will introduce caps on the total amount of benefit any claimant can get, for both housing needs and living expenses. The suggested total amount is £350 for a single person and £500 per week regardless of family size, or costs of housing. This will particularly affect those living in areas such asLondonwhere rents are higher than average. Currently 7 out of 8 people who get Housing Benefit are in low paid jobs, so having a living wage might well reduce the overall benefit bill more effectively than demonising benefit claimants further.

 

Much has been made of the figure of £26,000 as the maximum annual cap but the vast majority of claimants will in fact get far less then £26,000. Only 1% of claimants will be affected by this cap level but that will still be 67,000 families. In Brent alone 3,300 families are due to lose benefits because of the cap. Social cleansing of poor families has already started in boroughs likeWestminster.

 

Mortgage Interest changes

Changes to the amounts paid to mortgage interest for disabled claimants have been estimated to potentially lead to an additional 64,000 disabled people becoming homeless.

 

Cumulative Impact

The resulting increase in homelessness will lead to local authorities paying out millions more in costs.

May 132012
 

 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the benefit which is replacing Incapacity Benefit. ATOS healthcare are currently making £100 million a year processing both new claims and re-assessing those who are in receipt of Incapacity Benefit.

There are 2 types of ESA, one contributory ESA which disabled people are entitled to based on having paid National Insurance contributions and Income based ESA which is awarded to those on low incomes who are not in a partnership.

People claiming IB plus new claimants have to undergo a WCA (Work Capability Assessment) to claim ESA. There are 3 things that can happen from WCA

  • People can be found fit for work and have to claim JSA and register or work and meet lots of requirements about looking for work. If they don’t or they are late for appointments etc they are likely to have their benefits sanctioned ie stopped for 13-26 weeks. (This means that they only get an emergency payment of  £30 pw to live on plus Housing and Council Tax benefit stop being paid automatically and if they don’t know that and don’t make  new claim can end up with rent and CTB arrears.)

 

  • Second group of people get put in WRAG group ( Work Related Activity Group)

that is they get ESA( a lower rate) but this entitlement to Contribution based ESA for those placed in the WRAG has now been limited to 12 months and 700,000 claimants will be affected by this cut.

Disabled people in the WRAG have to jump through lots of hoops and make themselves work ready. Again if they don’t sanctions/ reduction of benefits will apply.

  • Third group is the support group- those  disabled  people who are considered unable to work due to their level of functional impairments.

 Overall the Coalition plan to remove 1 million disabled people from being able to claim ESA and declare them fit for work and force them to claim JSA (Job Seekers Allowance instead) Financially this is a loss of about £30 a week, but as well as losing entitlement to Incapacity Benefit many are also losing entitlement to DLA ( both components so in total people may lose a further  minimum £34 a week from an income which is there to meet the extra costs of being disabled). 

WCA assessment has been criticised by CAB, many DPOs, disabled people, Cancer support groups, a GP

Paul Gregg who originally devised it but now says it isn’t working.

Basically measures physical functional ability so fails massively anyone with non-physical or fluctuating impairments. New WCA assessment is even worse then what was in place and eg someone with a visual impairment is likely to be found fit for work unless they need an actual person guiding them. Someone who has agoraphobia would be fit for work and the fact that they physically can’t get to a place of work is ignored.

Totally ignores any of the barriers disabled people face in the labour market i.e. attitudes, physical access, environmental access, the reduction in Access to Work funding.

At the moment 70% of those who fail the WCA with representation win at appeal and have benefit reinstated, 40% who don’t have representation win. Waiting time often up to 12 months due to backlog in Tribunal service.

Another problem is that if you win your appeal ATOS can just start all over again re-testing you which is what happened to one of our supporter’s uncles. When he got papers for 2nd tribunal hearing he killed himself as he couldn’t face going through it all again. ( he won 1st appeal then had to have a second WCA,  and  failed that again )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 132012
 

 

 DISABLED PEOPLE AGAINST CUTS (DPAC)

www.dpac.uk.net

 Briefing Notes DLA Abolition.

 

Contact – Linda Burnip DPAC co-founder

01926 842253

0771 492 7533

linda_burnip@yahoo.co.uk

 

Debbie Jolly, DPAC co-founder

01572 820546

079461 40765

mail@dpac.uk.net

 Background to the Abolition of Disability Living Allowance  

 Disability Living Allowance was introduced in 1992 to provide support with the extra costs of living that disabled people face.  

 In the Budget (June 2010) and Comprehensive Spending Review (October 2010) the new Condem government announced its intention to arbitrarily cut spending on Disability Living Allowance by 20 per cent or remove eligibility from half a million disabled people.

 In December 2010, government then published its detailed plans to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and introduce Personal Independence Payment (PIP), for those of working age from 2013-14. This is in spite of the fact that the fraud rate is only 0.5%.

 The government said that the changes to the assessment and eligibility would be the means through which a 20 per cent cut in spend and recipient numbers would be achieved. By 2016 this cut was intended to amount to savings of £2.6bn annually.

 The government has said that it wants a more ‘objective’ assessment a statement driven by the political goal of lowering the spend on DLA, as there is little evidence of unnecessary payments:  fraud rates for DLA are low at only 0.5%[1]. This indicates there is sufficient rigor and objectivity under the present DLA assessment system. In addition only about 50% of DLA claimants are successful and in 2008 49% of appeals were turned down, which also suggests that the assessment is rigorous. 

 “The new benefit will have two components, linked to a range of activities that will be considered in the new assessment. One will be awarded on the basis of the individual’s ability to get around (the mobility component), the other on their ability to carry out other key activities necessary to be able to participate in daily life (the daily living component).”

 The government continue to echo the notion that support should go to those “who face the greatest need”. However they do not justify how they intend to equate ‘greatest need’ with enabling disabled people to fully participate within society and DPAC has concerns that any such false distinction will simply further  the notions of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ disabled.

 The policy goal which frames the PIP assessment criteria DPAC  would argue is totally flawed. We believe that the proposal for PIP is driven by a cost cutting agenda and a predetermined goal of cutting spend by 20 per cent, rather than any kind of objective assessment of need of support to cover disabled people’s extra costs of living.  

 Maria Miller has once more stated that the cost of supporting disabled people is unsustainable but that “The Coalition Government is committed to helping disabled people to exercise choice and control over their lives and ” “We have been absolutely clear that our welfare reform plans are designed to protect people in the most vulnerable situations, including disabled people.”

 However in reality both the work capability assessment for ESA and the proposed planned changes of replacing DLA with a Personal Independence Payment are simply designed to reduce the number of people whose disability is recognised by this government.

 We further believe that government ministers have continually created confusion over DLA by linking it to a goal of encouraging people to be in work. DLA is not an out-of-work benefit and people can receive it whether in or out of paid work. For many disabled people DLA is what allows them to be able to work and without it they will no longer be able to continue in employment.

 Assessment development group

 The government formed an ‘Assessment Development Group’ to design the assessment, comprising The government’s ‘Assessment Development Group’ which drew up the draft assessment has ten health and social care professionals plus government officials, yet only one person representing disabled people. Since the numbers of health professionals and officials heavily outweighed the number of disabled people present, it is not surprising that the group was able to come to a ‘broad agreement’ on the proposed assessment.

 If more disabled people had had been present it is doubtful that such a medicalised/ functional ability type of assessment would have been agreed on.  Disabled people should have been fully involved in this decision making process at the early stage of discussion, i.e. as members of the Assessment Development Group in at least an equal number of disabled people representing disabled people’s organisations as government and other officials.

 Article 4 of the UNCRPD states; the general obligation on government to consult with disabled people, before not after decisions or policies are changed.

This lack of early involvement is compounded by the government  ignoring the concerns raised by disabled people and their organisations via consultation responses by refusing to amend the Welfare Reform Bill sufficiently to address these concerns.  

 PIP components and eligibility assessment 

 PIP Components

 Personal Independence Payment will have two components:

  • daily living component
  • mobility component  

 Each component has two rates rather than the existing three rates:

  • daily living component standard rate
  • daily living component enhanced rate
  • mobility component standard rate
  • mobility component enhanced rate

 PIP Eligibility Assessment

 Activities for daily living and mobility

The new assessment will cover activities for daily living and mobility. To qualify for PIP disabled people will need to score enough points in the following daily living and/or mobility activities:

 Daily Living Activities:  

  1.  planning and buying food and drink
  2. preparing and cooking
  3. taking nutrition
  4. managing medication and monitoring health conditions
  5. managing prescribed therapies other than medication
  6. washing, bathing and grooming
  7. managing toilet needs or incontinence
  8. dressing and undressing
  9. communicating with others

The mobility activities:

  1. planning and following a journey
  2. moving around

The number of points scored will dictate whether a claimant is assessed as having a ‘limited ability’ or ‘severely limited ability’ to carry out daily living activities and/or mobility activities. The score will also dictate whether a claimant will receive the standard or enhanced rate of the Daily Living component.[2]     

PROBLEMS WITH PIP

  • In order to receive PIP disabled people must be aged between 16 and 65 years and satisfy the daily living and/or mobility activities test for 3 months prior to claiming and be likely to continue to satisfy this test for a period of at least 6 months after claiming.

 

  • It remains very unclear what will happen to anyone who becomes 65 and is in receipt of the mobility component of PIP as they would have to claim Attendance Allowance which has no mobility component. (currently anyone in receipt of DLA mobility component who becomes 65 continues to receive this). DPAC is therefore concerned that any older disabled people will lose their independence simply because they have reached the age of 65.

 

  • There is also no clarity about what will happen when someone is admitted to hospital for any length of time but with the proposals for PIP as they now stand it would seem that even a very short stay in hospital could result in someone losing their mobility cars, plus any equipment such as wheelchairs or hoists and other essential equipment they may be using PIP to pay for.

 

  • Government guidance on DLA states that ‘Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is not based on your disability but the needs arising from it’. This is not reflected in PIP and the assessment involves a rigid and crude set of questions which examines what a disabled person cannot or can do from a prescribed list that only covers basic mobility activities and daily living activities.  This method of assessment follows the medical model of disability. 

 

  • The Work Capability Assessment was described by Professor Harrington as ‘impersonal and mechanistic’ [3] and has resulted in many flawed decisions, which have been over turned on appeal. It is deeply worrying that the government appears be adopting a similar rigid assessment for PIP.    

 

  • The estimate for ESA tribunal appeals for 2012-2013 is £50 million and the backlog of cases is so long that tribunals are sitting even on Sundays so the logic behind also adopting a similarly flawed assessment process for PIP remains unclear to DPAC.

 

  • The cost of changing from DLA to PIP has also been estimated to be £65 million and on top of that there are plans to regularly re-assess even claimants whose condition will never improve. Not only does this seem a waste of money but it will add unfair additional stress to the lives of people who are already struggling to overcome the disabling barriers put in their way on a daily basis.

 

  • DLA acts as a passport to other welfare benefits and concessions such as the Blue Badge, loss of which will increase the impact of losing DLA. We feel the government have failed to consider how these passporting functions will be replaced if PIP is introduced.

 

  • Higher rate care component of DLA has passported disabled people to eligibility for funding for care and support from the Independent Living Fund although this is also now closed to new applicants and due to close completely by 2015.

 

  • Being in receipt of higher and middle rate care components of DLA has also passported disabled people to additional disability premiums in both Income Support and Housing Benefits. These premiums are now also planned to be abolished with no clear guidance on what these additional amounts of funding will be replaced by or how people will become eligible for any additional amounts of basic benefits.

 

  • Many disabled people will live in increased poverty because of the new assessment.  The government has not sufficiently tested what the impact on those losing DLA will be. In particular the cumulative impact of benefit changes remains unknown.

 

  • By depriving disabled people of a much needed benefit we believe the government is failing in their duty under the Equality Act and its responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

  • The assessment of mobility impairment is ridiculously crude and neither allows for cumulative impact, fluctuation in factors such as stiffness and pain, nor for factors such as steps. A person may be able to walk 50 or 200 metres on one day but none on another. They may be able to walk short distances on a flat surface but be unable to walk up and down steps to access buses and tube trains safely. An assessment of these factors is needed. 

 

  • Many claimants with Neuro-diverse and Mental Health conditions also say that while they can plan a journey the stress and anxiety involved in making such a planned journey has simply been ignored and that they can physically only carry out the planned journey if they have support from another person to do so. This is another group of disabled people whose real needs will be ignored by changes to PIP>

 

  • Claimants with conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis may be able to complete a one off physical task, but completing several tasks over the course of a day can have a cumulative effect and increase pain and immobility to totally debilitating levels.  Additional consideration of the impact of pain and fatigue is essential.

 

  • Again many claimants with Neuro-diverse and Mental Health conditions can physically cook a meal but find that to do so is stressful and exhausting for them so in reality they are not able to prepare and cook a meal.

 

  • Disabled people are already twice as likely to live in poverty as non-disabled people. Far from the intention to ‘improve the support for disabled people and better enable them to lead full, active and independent lives’, these proposals will lead to an increase in disabled people’s poverty and isolation.   Therefore DPAC is strongly opposed to the introduction of PIP and the eligibility assessment.  

 

  • The government’s work and pensions select committee recognised that many more disabled people need to be lifted out of poverty and recommended a DLA awareness campaign. 

 

  • DLA supports disabled people to become more equal and independent.  Instead of attacking DLA, which supports independence (including helping to overcome barriers that prevent some people taking up employment), government should be doing more to stimulate demand in the economy so that jobs are available and to tackle discrimination by employers by vigorously enforcing the Equality Act 2010.